Mini-Review of the Motorola i830

This mini-review will reveal that the i830 is really just a small version of the i730. Before reading it therefore, you might want to read the i730 review first so that you have some idea of what I think of that phone. Iíll then dedicate this review to discussing the similarities and differences between the two models.

Last Updated: 14-Jul-2004

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.


Without a doubt the i830 is the smallest and lightest iDEN phone yet produced by Motorola. At only 3.94 ounces it weighs no more than many of the GSM and CDMA models presently on the market. In terms of size, the phone is also right in there with many other clamshell models, at 3.35" x 1.77" x 0.79" (85mm x 45mm x 20mm). By comparison, the i730 weighs 5.1 ounces and its size is 3.60" x 2.00" x 1.10" (91mm x 51mm x 28mm).

The styling is a bit square, but the phone actually looks better in person than it does in photographs. The phone comes in copper and silver (well, more like gray), but Iím not sure if Telus is giving you a choice. The one I saw was copper, and while I wouldnít have personally chosen that color, it did have a certain charm compared to virtually every other phone, which these days are silver by default.

The keypad has the same layout as the i730, but the keys are smaller and more closely spaced. They are also recessed a bit more, and I didnít find that I liked the keypad as much as the i730ís. The i730 doesnít exactly have the worldís greatest keypad to begin with, and so the fact that the i830ís keys arenít as good doesnít bode well for it. That aside however, I didnít really have any specific complaints about the keypad during the couple of hours I got to play with the phone. Barry did say that the tiny multi-function keys on top of the phone were markedly harder to use than the same keys on the i730, however.

Phone features and functionality are virtually identical. They both use exactly the same screen, and precisely the same menu system. The only difference I could see at all was the auto-change feature for the wallpaper, which was minor at best. Beyond that the phones are absolutely identical in function, including the GPS receiver.

Small size does impose one rather obvious limitation to the i830 however, and thatís battery life. The i830 uses a very small battery, which according to Barry, who also owns an i730 (the one I originally tested near the end of last year), the battery life on the i830 was similar to the i730 in pure standby, but at least half in talk time. A larger-capacity battery is apparently available for the i830 (with a bulgy back plate no doubt). This will make the phone fatter and heavier, but it will still be smaller and lighter than the i730.

RF Performance and Audio Quality

So aside from the difference in size, appearance and battery life, what I was most interested in was any difference in RF performance and audio quality. The first thing I did was to place calls to the same recordings using the i730 and the i830. While the i830 seemed to have slightly lower earpiece volume, the tonal balance and general quality of both was the same. However, the ďticklingĒ sounds I mentioned in the i730 review are not present on the i830, which is a good thing.

To test the speakers on the two phones Barry and I tried a number of different tests. To compare the difference in volume and quality of the units during speakerphone operation we call the same recording on each phone, and then we turned the speaker on and off alternately to compare the speakers back-to-back. The i730 had a slightly richer sound, and it seemed to be a little louder, but aside from that it was difficult to tell the two phones apart.

To test the ringers I walked across the parking lot while Barry held the two phones up in the air and played various ringtones at full volume. Some of the ringtones (such as the super-loud Ringer 3) seemed distinctly louder on the i730, but other loud ringtones (such as Ringer 6) sounded virtually identical. It obviously mattered what frequencies were used in the tones, as the i830 didnít seem to reproduce lower frequencies as well as the i730, but did equally well on higher frequencies.

RF performance was tested at an arena on Conestoga Drive in Brampton. Due to the construction of the arena, and a lack of any sites right nearby, no provider worked well (if at all) inside the rink area. We could drag calls into the rink area on Mike and not have them drop, but there was considerable audio interference as the SQE drops below 10.

Throughout a series of side-by-side tests it didnít look like there was any difference between the two phones at all. Both held on to the signal equally, produced similar audio problems when SQE got very low, and showed virtually identical signal strength and SQE readings at all times (when on the same channel).

I certainly like my i730 very much, but if I were buying a new iDEN phone today Iíd certainly consider getting the i830 instead (simply for its smaller size and weight). The functional differences the two phones are non-existent for all intents and purposes, which means you can choose between them based purely upon size and styling considerations.